Technical Bulletins & Special Reports

Special Report No. 12-01: Assessing the Effectiveness of Contemporary Forestry Best Management Practices (BMPs): Focus on Roads

There is a long history of research on the effects of forest management on water resources. Results have supported development and continuous improvement of best management practices (BMPs) for controlling effects of forestry operations on water quality and beneficial uses. This report summarizes research on the effectiveness of BMPs for forestry operations generally and forest roads in particular. It is clear that forestry practices have changed dramatically over the past several decades and that BMPs are effective in minimizing water quality impacts. Paired watershed studies have demonstrated that implementing a suite of contemporary BMPs reduces sediment loads to streams by 80% or more relative to uncontrolled forestry operations. With contemporary BMPs, effects of forestry operations on water quality are generally small compared to effects of natural disturbance and annual weather cycles. Specific BMPs for roads have been tested in controlled studies and proven effective by road inventories conducted by forestry agencies in several states. Those inventories show that road BMPs are being implemented at high rates and are effective in reducing risks to water quality; road drainage structures are being disconnected from streams; poor road/stream crossings are being identified and corrected; and landslides from forest roads are being reduced.